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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Single Issue Trap

Do not question me

When I read all of the complaining about NARAL's and Planned Parenthood's endorsement of Commander Joe, I wonder what all the fuss is about.

Kos and more than a few people wonder why they're not adjuncts to the Democratic Party in a way that the NRA is to the GOP.

Given how Washington politics is played, they don't deliver enough money to people to have that kind of fealty.

When people properly blame Ralph Nader for turning progressivism from concerns for social justice to middle class comfort and consumerism, one of the things they should note is that is his leadership led the way to interest group politics. Instead of broad alliances, there are narrow factions.

In this world, the NAACP is just one more interest group, along with the rest. Real issues of social justice become second place to consumerism and political game playing. Which is why the Green Party went from weak to irrelevant. Instead of developing as an adjunct to the Democratic Party, it wound up riven with factional disputes. Why? Because every idea is valid. Everyone has a voice and leadership is a debate. Which is fine in ordering pizza, but politcs is supposed to create leaders, not serve as a personal temper tantrum.

So I am constantly amazed that people expect NARAL and Planned Parenthood to see a bigger picture. Why should they? They have been trained to be single issue advocates. And those kinds of organizations are dedicated to schmoozing in DC and hiring Hill Rats. It is rarely about what the local members want or a larger picture.

Why risk pissing off Lieberman who can help you on the Hill over prinicples? Lamont has no vote.

Nader and his disciples eschewed regular politics for a bizzare form of technocratism. They wanted to have experts make political decisions, more importantly tactical decisions. And when Al Gore wouldn't submit to Nader's often cult-like leadership, he was an enemy.

Instead of talking about abortion rights as social justice, it became a technical debate about the law. Lawyers and researchers being outplayed by a right wing which made the debate a social justice debate and got heard. By taking the heart out of the discussion, NARAL got hammered and outmanuvered time and again.

Nader set the model: top down technocratic leadership. Which was fine until 1980. But the GOP played to people's emotions. Abortion was murder, not the most performed medical procedure in the US. Pro-life was cast as saving babies, not oppressing women. Groups like NARAL took the heart out of an emotional debate and got beat for it.

The local members of NARAL and these other interest groups must seize control from Washington. As long as they don't, this failed top-down management style will continue.

And this isn't just Nader-bashing, people need to look at how his secretive, autocratic management style has hurt progressive politics. From the classist PIRG system to the top down management of most advocacy groups, to the refusal to properly fund left of center groups, all can be traced back to the way Nader did business.

You had a man who bragged about his frugality, while sitting on millions, who demanded insane sacrifices, while living an isolated life. Part of the reason that the left moved away from social justice concerns was due to this management style, which through his disciples, spread throughout left advocacy groups. The smugness of Common Cause, the ineptitude of NARAL, all of these have roots in the way Public Citizen grew. Only the ACLU and NAACP remained out of the influence of this management style

Now, we have to remake these organizations to reflect the DNC, a 50 state campaign, serving local needs. They need to get people back in the field and start creating a populist movement for change and stop worrying so much about Washington. Nader feared populism which would demand accountability from the leaders, look at his own organizations. No one questioned him.

This is a failed model. We need to replace it. Until we do, Washington beltway politics will dominate groups like NARAL, even if they lose and lose badly at it

posted by Steve @ 7:17:00 AM

7:17:00 AM

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